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In closing these remarks, the directors would observe, that they can see no reason, why all the county associations in England should not be connected with the Home Missionary Society. It is now a part of the body to which they belong; and in promoting its prosperity, they are unquestionably helping forward those great principles, which are “most surely believed" amongst themselves. Undue power it can never attain, since it lives by the influence of enlightened opinion, and the approbation of Christian brethren-so that if ever it shall be seen to trespass on the principles referred to, or cease to promote the great design for which it was formed, the same power which now sustains it, can make it cease to exist. If the more vigorous associations can receive no accession of strength from union with it, they can yet add to its energy, thus enabling it to strengthen such as are feeble. And these, however inefficient at present, if only disposed to arouse themselves to the utmost of their power, will find that by a connexion with the Society, they may derive strength from those more powerful than themselves. Toward those counties, where there are no associations of Congregational churches, the directors look with deep solicitude; entreating their brethren, for their own sakes, to form at least district associations, if they can do no more; let them not allow a day unnecessarily to pass, till they have proved the invigorating and blessed influence of union. A vigorous association on the spot, with an executive alive to the requirements of the times, can do the work of evangelization more efficiently than it can possibly be done by any society in London, without such hearty co-operation.
The directors with perfect confidence address the pastors and churches of the Congregational order, in their individual, as well as their associated capacity. They feel assured, that they will receive credit for sincerity, in the attempts they are making to bless their country. At the same time, they cannot withhold the request, that these attempts may be regarded, with enlarged and prayerful attention. There must be no relaxation of effort. Rather let each church, each association, and anxiliary, endeavour this year to increase their exertions. This would enable the directors, with satisfaction and joy, to meet the additional claims made upon them, from the most destitute parts of England and Wales. Let the Society be made worthy of the denomination, or rather of the great cause in which it is embarked. Let hands, and hearts—and funds, and prayers—be united in the work; and the home of our affeetions must become, “as a field which the Lord hath blessed.”
IRISH EVANGELICAL SOCIETY. The fact that a painful difference had arisen between the Committees of the Congregational Union of Ireland and the Irish Evangelical Society has ceased to be a secret, by the discussion of some points at issue in the columns of the Patriot news paper. It has been the earnest wish of all parties to terminate a state of things so undesirable in itself, and so injurious to the interests of our churches in Ireland. After lengthened correspondence, it was agreed to refer the questions in debate to a conference, to be held between a deputation from each society and several ministers, chosen by each party to advise what course should be taken. We are happy to say, that that conference was held at Liverpool, on the 25th and 26th of June. The Rev. Dr. Urwick, the Rev. W. H. Cooper, of Dublin, and the Rev. Messrs. King, of Cork, and Shepherd, of Sligo, appeared on behalf of the Congregational Union of Ireland; and the Rer. Dr. Vaughan, and the Rev. Messrs. Burnett and Tidman, appeared on behalf of the Irish Evangelical Society. The Rev. Drs. Raffles and Wardlaw, and Rer. Messrs. Kelly, J. A. James, and Blackburn, were advisers and referees. After a long and ample investigation of the case, we are happy to announce, that our brethren came to a unanimous recommendation that the two societies should act in concert, upon terms which we hope to publish in our next, and to which we sincerely trust each party represented in the conference will acceed.
TRANSACTIONS OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES, ADJOURNED MEETING OF THE CONGREGATIONAL UNION OF
ENGLAND AND WALES. On Friday morning, May 14th, 1841, at eight o'clock, the brethren assembled, and the Rev. R. ELLIOTT, the Chairman, read the 62nd Psalm, and the 190th Hymn, Congregational Collection, after which the Rev. Thomas James, of Woolwich, engaged in prayer.
The Rev. A. Wells then introduced the correspondence with foreign churches, and laid upon the table letters from the Congregational Unions of Van Dieman's Land and Lower Canada, the General Conference of Maine, the General Association of New Hampshire, General Convention of the Congregational Ministers and Churches of Vermont, General Association of Connecticut, the General Assembly of the Preshyterian Church of North America, the Association of Congregational Churches of New York, and from the Church at St. John's, New Brunswick.
The Rev. J. Hill, of Gornell, then moved, and Mr. Alderman May, of Ipswich, seconded the following resolution, which was adopted :
“ That the several fraternal letters now laid before this Assembly, addressed to it by various bodies of honoured Christian brethren in the United States of America, and in the British Colonies, have been received with most respectful attention, and have awakened the warmest feelings of affection and delight. And this Assembly leaves it in charge with the Committee to respond, as early as possible, to those communications, on behalf of this Union, in a manner accordant with the sentiments and feelings now expressed by the meeting; and in general to promote, as much as possible, correspondence and fellowship with other bodies of Christians, as one of the most cherished and valued objects of this Union.”
The Rev. D. E. FORD, of Lymington, then rose and said—That having just received the motion which he held in his hand, he was ill-prepared to press it upon the attention of the meeting. It was one, however, which concerned feelings and principles which were dear to all their hearts. To suffer persecution for righteousness sake had often been the honour of those who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. For his own part he could testify, as far as his observation extended, that in proportion as they had been opposed and oppressed, had their great and blessed Lord poured down his Holy Spirit and crowned them with extended success. Let men curse if He would bless. They cared not for constant reproaches, nor for the refusal of a grave to their children, shut out from the parochial burial-grounds, if He whose they were and whom they loved, would graciously add his own blessing to them, and say, “These are my servants, and these are my churches.” But they must feel as men, they must act as citizens; and they were following a noble and apostolic example, when, as citizens, they demanded their rights. It surely was too bad to be taxed and sent to gaol to support the parish church, and then to be told that their children could not be interred in the churchyard. For himself, he felt so strongly on this subject, that he certainly should not request to be interred in consecrated ground; he could sincerely say, “ Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt.” It was his misfortune to live in a town where there was no burial-ground for dissenters. He had always told his friends if he died to bury him on the cross road rather than carry his bones to that ground towards the expense of which he had refused to pay, and for which he had suffered the loss of property. But he feared that he had already detained the meeting too long, and would, therefore, at once read the resolution which he held in his hand.
The Rev. R. CHAMBERLAYNE, of Swanage, seconded the resolution.
The Rev. A. Wells hoped the brethren present would give their opinions in refer. ence to this subject. The resolution would be a record as well as a protest; their N. S. VOL. V.
children would learn from such documents what was their position and what were their sentiments in reference to important questions. That they were at the present time greatly oppressed by the church party, no one could for a moment doubt. To that effect was the speech of Dr. Raffles, and others had borne similar testimony. He had endeavoured to embody, in the form both of a record and protest, their sentiments with respect to the manner in which they were then oppressed and persecuted by the church party; but he was anxious that so important a resolution should not pass sub silentio.
A lengthened conversation then took place upon the several clauses of the resolation, in which Mr. Palmer, Dr. Matheson, Mr. Thos. James, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Hill, Dr. Vaughan, Mr. Blackburn, Mr. May, and Mr. Fletcher, took part ; and which was subsequently modified by the Committee to meet the various suggestions in the following form :
“ That this assembly feels called upon by the present state of such questions in this favoured country, once more to publish and record its solemn protest against those various vexations or oppressive proceedings to which the continued maintenance of a state religion still subjects those who conscientiously dissent from it; such as—the exaction of church-rates, the arbitrary proceedings of ecclesiastical courts for enforcement of church-rates; the state of the law respecting interment in the parochial burying-grounds, which allows of no religious service when dissenters bury their dead, than that prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer—a service which it is sometimes a grievance to the consciences of dissenters to witness, and sometimes on the consciences of clergymen to perform, as when they have scruples in respect to the baptism of the deceased ; the compulsory appointment, by the poor-law commissioners, of stipendiary chaplains to union houses for the poor; and the mean persecution now so unsparingly exercised by force, not of law, but of property, to coerce, for the support of the hierarchy, the consciences of tenants, tradesmen, voters, and even the recipients of benefits from charitable bequests and donations. And this assembly would also, most respectfully, but most earnestly, entreat all their brethren not to be deterred by any odium, difficulty, or want of success, that may for the present attend efforts to resist or remove those evils, from a manly, conscientious, Christian discharge of that duty, whenever wisdom may discern, or Providence present a call to it; the stedfast support of a good cause in evil times being one of the greatest of Christian duties, and one of the most effectual means of promoting the sacred cause of truth, liberty, and religion.”
The assembly then resumed the reception of reports from the county delegates, which was not completed before the hour of adjournment on Tuesday.
Delegates were heard, or letters were read, from Suffolk, Wilts, Worcester, and the East and West Ridings of York.
Delegation to Scotland. The Rev. Dr. Matheson said that he would briefly state to the meeting the substance of what occurred on his visit to Scotland. He was very unexpectedly called upon to discharge this duty; nor was he at all unwilling to visit his father-land, and meet once more those brethren with whom he had often been connected on previous occasions. The fraternal regards which he was commissioned to convey from the English Congregational Union, were reciprocated by the brethren in Scotland. He found them deeply interested in the state of things in the English churches. They themselves seemed to be very much in a state of quiescence, as regarded some matters which had excited and agitated them two or three years ago. They were leaving agitating topics to the established church. With regard to the state of religion amongst them, from their reports, and from conversations which he had with different
ministers, it appeared to be most encouraging. As a Home Missionary Society, their operations were producing the best effects. They had some very devoted men ; and they were now anxious to carry out more fully Home Missionary operations as a distinct branch from the labours of pastors itinerating in the villages around, for a few months in the year. The income of their Home Missionary funds had this year greatly exceeded the amount of the previous year. But the demands made upon them for labourers in the northern parts of the island had also very much increased. It appeared that the agitation of the topics which filled the public mind in Scotland, had had the effect of directing increased attention to the subject of religion, and this had led to a call for exertions which the Congregational Union was at this moment unable to meet. He had been informed that in several churches in various parts of Scotland, a spirit of revival had been exerted among the people, and he had visited one church in which a revival had taken place. The brethren in the north were intensely concerned at the spread of heresy in the south. They had nothing of the kind in Scotland. They stated that they felt the Independent denomination to be one of the bulwarks of the great cause of Protestantism, and they felt exceedingly anxious that it should go on increasing, in numbers and in usefulness. He was desired to return their cordial thanks for the kindness displayed by the Union, in sending a representative to visit them, and to express their regret that they could not this year convey their feelings in the same manner. They hoped next year to be able to send a representative. On the whole, he thought such visits were likely to do good. They were of one mind with them, not only on all essential points, but even with respect to ecclesiastical polity, and these visits would cement still more closely the two bodies of Christians. He hoped that as they were in principle essentially one, they would become essentially one in all measures for promoting the extension of the Gospel.
The Chairman then read the resolution, which on Tuesday was moved by Dr. PARKER, seconded by the Rev. JAMES SHERMAN, and sustained by Sir CULLING EARDLEY SMITH, which was adopted.
Irish Evangelical Society. The Rev. G. Rose, Secretary of the Irish Evangelical Society, then read the following statement : Annual Statement of the Committee of the Irish Evangelical Society to the Annual Assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales.
Presented May 14th, 1841. In presenting their first annual statement to the Assembly of the Congregational Union, the Committee of the Irish Evangelical Society would rejoice, were it in their power to state that great and unexampled success had attended their exertions during the past year. But although this has not been the case, they are conscious of having laboured faithfully and diligently for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause in Ireland, and are thankful in being able to add, that they have not been left without some gracious tokens of their Divine Master's approval.
The number of agents employed has continued nearly the same as in recent years ; though some new ground has been broken up, and some itineracies have been commenced. Their attention was directed early in the year to the important town of Belfast, and their esteemed friend and brother, the Rev. G. N. Watson, formerly of Chigwell Row in Essex, having met with much encouragement from the people, was induced to accept an invitation to settle among them. The Committee regret to find, that there is some reason to fear this arrangement will not be permanent.
They have continued to employ Mr. Godkin as an agent, whose attention has been directed almost exclusively to Roman Catholics. He has been occupied in delivering lectures in many of the principal towns, on the leading doctrines of popery; a work for which he is peculiarly adapted, from having been originally himself a Roman Catholic. Vast multitudes have assembled to listen to his candid, kind, and temperate exposures of the unscriptural character of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, and generally he has been heard with profound attention and respect. In some instances, however, the most bitter hostility has been shown him by the Romish priesthood, and on one occasion his life appeared in some danger, from the turbulence of an excited assembly, in the town of Dundalk, who refused to hearken to his address. These particulars, however, have already appeared before the public in the pages of the Congregational Magazine.
With regard to itinerancies, it may be mentioned, that, in the county of Antrim, Mr. Bewglass travels over a circuit of about a hundred and thirty miles in circumference ; Mr. Fordyce, at Aughnacloy, in the county of Tyrone, has entered upon a district formerly occupied by the home mission of the Established Church, before its suppression by the hand of unrighteous authority; whilst Mr. Keeling has relinquished the discouraging station at Naas, and, making Limerick the centre of his labours, has opened an extensive itinerancy, which promises to embrace a large portion of the counties Limerick, Clare, Galway, Kerry, and Cork.
With regard to the number of their agents and the extent of their labours, it may be sufficient to state, twenty-two pastors, ministers, and Irish preachers, have been either sustained or assisted by the funds of the Society during the year, besides the four brethren who have been already mentioned as engaged in extensive itinerancies, being about five-sixths of the entire number of Congregational ministers in Ireland. The number of stations and outstations at which these devoted brethren preach the word of life is considerably more than two hundred, and about sixty new members have been admitted to the churches over which some of them preside. Eleven Scripture-readers have also been occupied in visiting the people from house to house, and their labours, it is confidently believed, have not been in vain in the Lord.
The Committee regret to state, that their valued friend the Rev. Dr. Vaughan, having found the duties devolving upon him in the office of Secretary incompatible with his numerous literary and other engagements, was induced to resign at Christmas last. Hitherto they have not felt themselves in a situation which would warrant the appointment of his successor, but the duties of the office have therefore devolved, since the period just mentioned, upon his former coadjutor.
The brethren are doubtless aware, that questions of considerable importance have arisen between the Committee of the Society and the Committee of the Congregational Union of Ireland. Deeply solicitous for the preservation of peace through. out the Congregational body in the empire, the Committee of the Irish Evangelical Society have carefully abstained from engaging in public controversy, or making private statements on the subject, even in self-defence, but have sought the advice of the Committee of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, and agreed to refer the whole matter to the judgment of wise and honoured brethren nominated by the several parties. It is proposed, that these brethren shall meet to consider the case in the month of June next, and for obvious reasons, therefore, the Committee feel it their duty to abstain from making any further reference to the subject in the present stage of the proceedings.
With regard to funds, the expenditure for the year has been £2996. Os. 11d., the total amount of contributions is about £2350, exclusive of the sum of £350, realized by the sale of a field in the vicinity of Dublin, formerly belonging to the Society: but it scarcely need be stated, that a much larger sum is necessary in order to render “justice to Ireland.” If the cities and larger towns are to be supplied with Congregational ministers, an order of men, and a rate of remuneration will be necessary,